Black hole student researcher shines light on Australian astrophysics talent

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Astrophysics Honours graduate Sophie Young won the Astronomical Society of Australia’s 2024 Bart Bok Prize.

The University of Tasmania is celebrating the news that Honours graduate Sophie Young has received the Astronomical Society of Australia’s 2024 Bart Bok Prize.

This prestigious award recognises outstanding research by an Honours or eligible Masters’ student in Australia.

Young’s research explores the distant Universe, a place full of radio galaxies, which are galaxies that emit bursts of intense light from supermassive black hole jets. This light, known as synchrotron radiation, is often more than a million times brighter than the sun.

Studying these galaxies, which are often young, small and distant, is incredibly challenging. Through her research, Young created a theoretical sample of these radio galaxies, providing a vital tool for real-world astronomical research. Her work demonstrates how these galaxies influence their surroundings by injecting energy and momentum into the gas clouds between stars.

Her recognition highlights her exceptional research and reflects the strength and impact of the University of Tasmania’s astrophysics program.

“Being awarded the Bok Prize is an incredible honour and it still feels quite surreal to be recognised on a national scale,” Young says.

“I have always been fascinated by space and astronomy, but I’d never really considered studying it further until I had the opportunity to do a summer research project through UTAS that involved learning the basics of supercomputer simulations.

“This opened my eyes to a completely new area of astrophysics which I barely even knew existed.”

Deepening understanding of the universe

The Bart Bok Prize is awarded annually by the Astronomical Society of Australia to honour outstanding research by an Honours or eligible Masters’ student in the field of astronomy and recognises exceptional contributions to the understanding of the universe.

Recipients of the Bok Prize are acknowledged for their significant achievements and their potential to advance astronomical research, reflecting the high standards of scholarship within the Australian astronomical community.

- Advertisement -

Young’s award continues a tradition of excellence at the University of Tasmania that sees her following in the footsteps of her Honours supervisors Associate Professor Stas Shabala and Dr Ross Turner, who also earned the prize (in 2004 and 2014, respectively).

“Sophie has addressed a truly complex astrophysical problem from a theoretical viewpoint and opened up a new research direction for next-generation telescopes including the multi-billion-dollar Square Kilometre Array, which will be operating in just a few years’ time in Western Australia and southern Africa,” Dr Turner says.

Associate Professor Shabala says Sophie’s work had advanced our understanding of radio galaxies.  

“It also highlights the enduring quality and mentorship within the university’s world class astrophysics program.”

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]